Conservative Legal Advocacy: John M. Olin Foundation, 1975

Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)



Case Study Sector


In the 1970s, when the John M. Olin Foundation transformed from a vehicle for personal giving into a philanthropic institution, its founder was deeply concerned about the future of the capitalist system; he wanted his foundation to counter what he perceived as a wave of political sentiment against American capitalism fueled substantially by liberal philanthropies.
The Foundation was particularly concerned with the direction of legal education. One of the Foundation’s early grantees, the Institute for Educational Affairs, was recruited to help identify high impact conservative projects; it agreed with this assessment. Understanding the direct concerns of the Foundation in the field of law, the Institute recognized early promise in a group of conservative law students in the early 1980s, which eventually formed as the Federalist Society. The Foundation made grants to sponsor the Society’s first major event, a conference, which helped to jump start the organization’s visibility and recruitment capabilities.
Over the next two decades, the Olin Foundation contributed more than $2 million to the Federalist Society. . . .



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